You trip over that loose stone in the walkway that you keep meaning to get fixed, but this time, instead of stumbling for a moment and perhaps cracking a couple of eggs in your grocery bag, you can’t catch your balance; you fall and fracture your hip. The next thing you know, you’re on your way to the hospital. How could this happen?
In the United States more than 1.5 million individuals, primarily post-menopausal women, have been diagnosed with osteoporosis. However older men suffering from andropause—age related drop in testosterone, are as equally at risk of osteoporosis and comprise a percentage of the additional 18 million people that have very low bone density, placing them at higher risk of developing the condition.
Just as you remodel your home every so often, your bones undergo constant remodeling. Specialized cells in your bones are hard at work, constantly breaking down and rebuilding your bone tissue and reshaping your skeletal structure. Osteopenia and osteoporosis are names given to describe a condition in which the body breaks down more bone than is created. In essence, there is more demolition happening than construction.
Perhaps one of the most dangerous things about osteoporosis is the relative lack of obvious symptoms to serve as warning signs. Most of the time the disease makes itself known through a minor fall that results in fractures or broken bones. The one place that osteoporosis may actually be seen is the spine. As bone mass is reduced, the vertebrae collapse, causing curvature, loss of height, and humps.
It is important to have regular checkups to determine whether you are suffering from bone loss, especially if you are at higher risk due to family history, have a history of steroid use, or if you’re post-menopausal or andropausal men. If your condition is identified early on, there are good medical and alternative treatments available to help prevent progression of the disease.
According to Chinese medicine, bones, bone marrow, and the skeletal structure rely heavily on the kidney essence. Kidney essence represents hormonal function and growth factors in the body. Replenishment of it is possible through mind-body exercises like tai chi and qi gong, special herbs, and a nourishing diet and lifestyle that can prevent depletion of kidney essence and slow down the progression of osteoporosis and aging. In fact, tai chi has been shown to be excellent for increasing balance, strength and bone mass. For classes on tai chi and qi gong on the Westside log on to www.chihealth.org or call
Easy Tips for Better Bones:
• Bulk Up With Orange Juice
Calcium and vitamin D are both crucial to bone health. Traditionally, cow’s milk has been touted as the ideal food for strong bones, but many people react adversely to lactose. New studies show that your body is capable of absorbing vitamin D and calcium from orange juice as readily as milk. Besides being good for your bones, orange juice is also full of vitamin C, a potent antioxidant.
• Weights and Walking
No matter how much calcium and vitamin D supplements people take, without activities that exert weight on the bones, it will prove useless. We learned this when astronauts experienced weightlessness in space. Without gravity to put weight on their bones, they underwent much more rapid bone loss than they would have on Earth. This doesn’t mean you have to become a weight lifter. Moderate weight-bearing exercises such as walking are sufficient to help restore calcium to the bones.
• Herbs for Strong Bones
Natural herbs are a great way to support bone health. Black cohosh, barley grass, alfalfa, and rose hips are traditionally used to help support healthy bones. Kelp, horsetail, wild yams, and red clover are also used to nourish the bones. We use the formula DuraBone to help many patients. Its ingredients include shark cartilage, oyster shells, and other Chinese herbs to nourish bones and tendons. You can obtain most of the above mentioned herbs at your local health food store or online at www.taostar.com
• Don’t Let the Bone Thieves In
As you age, avoid the things that weaken the calcium in your bones. Some of the biggest offenders are nicotine, caffeine, and excessive alcohol, sugar, and salt. Caffeinated soft drinks are also very high in phosphorus, which actually removes calcium from your bones. Prescription drugs can do the same, including steroids and thyroid medication, so if you must take these, make sure your doctor closely monitors your bone health. Of course, exposure to a healthy amount of sun, and eating a diet rich in dark leafy greens, beans, and legumes can all help you prevent osteoporosis.
Maintenance and prevention is the key to longevity, strong bones and a healthy life. May you Live Long, Live Strong, and Live Happy!
Dr. Mao Shing Ni, popularly known as Dr. Mao, is a bestselling author, doctor of Oriental Medicine and board certified anti-aging expert. He practices acupuncture, nutrition and Chinese medicine with his associates at the Tao of Wellness in Santa Monica, a Wellness Medicine group that won the “L.A.’s Best” Award. Dr. Mao and his brother, Dr. Daoshing Ni founded Tao of Wellness in Santa Monica over 25 years ago. In addition, he is the cofounder and Chancellor of Yo San University in Venice/Marina del Rey. To subscribe to a free newsletter please visit www.taoofwellness.com To make an appointment for evaluation and treatment please call 310.917.2200 or you can email Dr. Mao at email@example.com